Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Budweiser vs. Microbrew" what Newsweek says about Church in America

As most of you know I'm passionate about Jesus, I'm passionate about truth, I'm passionate about love, I'm passionate about God's word, and I'm passionate about God's plan for sharing the truth, love, and word of Jesus through His body...the Church.

This morning I read an interesting article in Newsweek's online magazine about the cultural Christian shift from institutionalization to a more organic and biblical form of community life. In the article Gary Laderman, professor of American religious history at Emory University and author of 'Sacred Matters' stated, "What's going on is a kind of deinstitutionalization of religious life," when he was asked why American Christians have grown weary with the current ways of practicing their faith.

Though the article is interesting and agreeable on the point it aims to make, ( it expresses a major concern for the institutional tradition of the way we "do" church) it still fails to focus on the main issue in regards to the mass exodus of some 1,000,000 Christians per year leaving institutional churches (per the Barna Group), the lack of genuine transformation of individual Christians, and the total disunity within the "body of Christ" (The Church). That main issue is that Christians have grown tired of playing the part of the "American Christian", a part that is focused on keeping America "Christian", the using of the pulpit as an opportunity to press the political beliefs and religious interpretations of a few clergy on to the mass amounts of listeners while they care more about the appearance and marketability of their congregation than transformation and discipleship within the membership (don't tell me it's different, show me). Within this issue is that while the church preaches to the individual listener there is a lack of biblical community within the body as we have been taught like children to be seen and not heard for fear that the congregation speaking up is what would lead to disunity (shaking hands and giving your name before we get entertained is not community). Though Pastors have the best of intentions to keep things orderly, their hierarchical positions have deadened the Spirit of the congregation as very few manage to function, and their fears of disunity are strictly a fear that they may need to re-think the way their program currently works. In a nutshell, followers of Christ are tired of playing the part of Christian, following a select few and their views while the Headship of Jesus and the love and unity of believers is left in the dust.

It also needs to be said that meeting in a house doesn't make a Christian community any better than the one who meets in a church edifice. This is especially true if people are leaving the institution in order to meet together while still holding on to the un-biblical hierarchical structure and liturgy that bores the masses on Sunday's. I truly believe that the main reason for this move from institutional church life is due to a desire of the body to share in authentic worship within an all members functioning community with Christ as Head (see 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, and all through Acts). The desire doesn't come from the need to be known or "do" church better, but instead, due to the Holy Spirit which desires us to be a unified visible expression of the love and truth of Christ within local communities. While we currently have church buildings on every block from multiple denominations, God's desire to bring true unity within His body cannot co-exist with the current "sheep stealing" that goes on. Especially if these sheep are already part of the Kingdom of God through their relationship with Christ and know their Shepherd(John 10).

In these tough times, ones in which the faint of heart have a buffet of choices in which they can get their daily fears from, the Holy Spirit is moving in the hearts of Christians to usher in the Biblical Kingdom of God through the love, generosity, grace, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I do agree that a lack of institution is where God moves best as the Headship of Christ is allowed to be re-established as he supplants the "CEO Pastor" that currently runs the body in America (and the world). However, I'm also aware that some may disagree with my views on why the move to de-instituionalize the Church is happening and I want to be clear that my main desire is that we would aim in this New Year to re-hire Jesus back as the Head of his Church so that we may get the true answer of what he's doing.

May we all come together in love, regardless of our views on denominations (that includes you non-denomonationals too), politics, baptism, eschatology or any other view that gives us pride as opposed to humility. Let's aim to give Jesus his church back, regaining our understanding of who we are in Christ as well as our roles in His Church.

(For the whole Newsweek article, please click the Blog title entry)


  1. Hi Ryan, Happy New Year!

    You said, "the mass exodus of some 1,000,000 Christians per year leaving institutional churches (per the Barna Group), the lack of genuine transformation of individual Christians, and the total disunity within the "body of Christ" (The Church)."
    At the risk of making this too simple, if there is no transformation (i.e. born again), then these million people will not survive in ANY Christian environment and I can't blame them for leaving the church. There is no church structure that will cause men to be born from above.
    I also wonder about your presupposition that Jesus needs to get His church back. Since the church is the body of Christ, how can He leave?

    Look forward to a fun and spiritually growing year together as you always have an interesting perspective and make me think.

  2. Hey Bill,

    Thanks for the comment. I don't want to go on and on either explaining what I was saying but those 1,000,000 that are leaving, are leaving because of a lack of opportunity for transformation due to the problem of who's currently leading the institutional church. It is correct that the Church itself cannot make a man be born from above, but the church as it is presented in scripture is the community in which we live that "born again life" together not a bunch of "individuals" coming together for services. Clearly, the DNA of the institution does not always match the DNA of Christ (Even Chimps match our DNA by 98% and that doesn't mean they're the same as we are in their cognitive abilities amongst other things). The current "model" appears to paralyze the masses as we are encouraged to be entertained, fill in the blanks of our schedule with "christiany" things to do and appears more 1st century Jew than 1st century Christian in our "do everything right" method. Even saying it's not about religion but a relationship has become religious jargon.

    Ironically, I enjoy the history of the church, love the "church fathers", and love the novelty of doing the "church life" as I've known it, but my Spirit keeps saying that the way we currently "do" church just doesn't give the freedom that Jesus says we'd find when we're following him, and doesn't take on the role of being the body of Jesus to the masses (though clearly MANY good Jesus type things are done). In my opinion the church is a place of "What would Jesus doers" and not enough of just being Jesus on the Earth.

    As far as Jesus getting his church back, you are right saying that it is (SUPPOSED to be) his body, but to deny the fact that the current language used by Pastors ("my church") has led me to believe that the institution is run by man with God getting the invite during meetings or services. Also, leaving the institution for a more organic form doesn't mean a specific community would not have solid leadership. It's just that the leadership would look different from the current take a vote model that seems more business like than Spirit led.

    The current institutional model of denomonationalism, marketing to the masses and a one size fits all Christianity not only aren't biblical but completely contradict each other. How can we have denominations but have "one size fits all". How the body be this dis-unified? How can Presbytarian Christians hate Catholic Christians and Baptists hate Charismatics when we all are part of the same body? Maybe it's because man has got their hands on God's word, changed the lens and pitched it to the people who it fits.

    I'm just thinking out loud now. But, as much as I want to go back to the institution because it feels right, I can't deny that the Spirit is so much more organic in the way He led the church in the first century. My view is similar to Horton in Christless Christianity in that while the institution can still do some AMAZING things that look a lot like Jesus even though we don't necessarily preach him.

    The idea of a life with Christ, being transformed and being part of a local and global body just seems to be so much different in Scripture than the model. I've felt this way for about three years and only in the past year have I decided really pray to discern the truth. I've read Viola and Barna but have also read (or am reading) books on why the church should stay the way it is. Currently I'm ready one by kluck titled, "why we love the church".

    Anyway, I look forward to the same type of year as you :) I know that regardless of our ecclesiology we belong to the same body under the same head and that head looks like Jesus Christ of Nazareth.